Roberts Family, Daniel Family (Click for Family Tree)
Cooking was an integral part of the life of a farm wife. Edith Roberts McMurray Luck inherited the cooking gene from her mother, Ella V. Daniel Roberts. Edith wrote in her family stories:
Mama was an excellent cook. Nothing fancy, but just good country cooking. There was always room for another pair of legs under our table. Always enough for another mouth. I still feel I should do the same thing. Funny how these teachings stay [w]ith us.
One of the most special stories that Edith wrote to her grandchildren was entitled, “A Winter Afternoon 1904.” Edith was just five years old, and it was amazing how she was able to so clearly remember incidents from her very early years. She reminisced:
Mother and I had had a nap and I was playing in the kitchen, while Mama was taking out of the oven huge loaves of bread and a pan of six inch high biscuits.
There must have been a dozen in this particular pan she always used for these biscuits. The fragrance from the freshly baked bread was delightful. The golden-browned tops were well greased, making them even more delicious to eat. Mother used a potato water starter. I don’t know just how she did it. I do know that sister was always warned not to upset the cup of starter on the table in the pantry. She baked once a week.
Of course, during harvest season Ellie Roberts would have been baking probably every day, as there were a lot of hired hands to feed. She would have had help though, with neighboring women coming to the Roberts farm to assist in the kitchen, and then Ellie Roberts would go to one of their farms when the threshers moved on. Add in the extra women, young girls who helped, and little children, and there were a lot of mouths to feed!
Edith continued her story:
It was about time for the kids to come home from school. If I timed it right I could stand on a chair and watch for them to leave the school grounds. We were just a quarter of a mile from the school-house. This afternoon I was standing on a chair jugging from one foot to the other with a carpet ball in my hands. A big basket of them was under the resevoir [sic]. Also near the stove was a tall can of thick cream. It was being warmed to churn the next morning. Mother had warned me to be careful. Finally, while I was shouting; “They are coming, they are coming.” she said sharply; “Edith Mae Roberts, if you drop one of those carpet balls in that cream you will get a hard spanking.” Under my breath I said; “I wish my name was not Edith Mae Roberts.” I was teased about this for years. “So you don’t want to be called Edith May Roberts huh?”
The kids came in all hot and breathless and covered with snow. All hungry as little bears. I knew mother would fix them one of those fresh biscuits and I would get half of one too, with either plum butter or apple butter on it. Delicious! I can almost taste them now.
The above recipe was a family favorite. We don’t know if it was passed down from her mother or if Edith found it elsewhere. These cookies are unique and totally delicious, especially when frozen and ‘liberated’ from the deep freeze in the midst of a hot Iowa summer without air conditioning.
Like most family recipes, it was told to the writer as Edie was cooking, and she had made the recipe so many times that she didn’t think about things like whether or not to drain the pineapple, which is likely the way to go- it will depend on the moisture in the air when you are baking, and you may need a bit of the juice. These are excellent without the nuts, too, although pecans are very good in them. If the kitchen is warm, pop the dough in the refrigerator for a bit to firm up before baking, or the cookies will spread out too much. The bottoms of these cookies brown quickly, as do the pineapple bits, so do not use a dark pan- an insulated sheet might work better, though of course such things were not available to Edith or her mother as they baked in a wood-fired stove and later Edith’s prized electric oven. Edie always added a buttercream icing after cooling that was delicious plain or with additional crushed pineapple mixed in. The yield of 3-4 dozen was for farmhands and threshers, it seems- they are very large. Smaller cookies puff up taller and have a better icing:cooky ratio per results of many taste tests over the years.
Notes, Sources, and References:
1) Family recipe.
2) “The kids” coming home from school would have been Edith’s brother George A. Roberts, Jr. and their sister, Ethel Gay Roberts.
3) The above is not Edith’s handwriting- that was challenging to read. She typed most of her recipes but this one was written as she told it, probably sometime in the 1960s or early 70s.
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